Reviewed by: Matthew Prins
In the viewing of nearly every movie, there must be some suspension of disbelief to enjoy the movie. If there is a questioning of the accuracy of every event in a movie, where’s the enjoyment? From “The Spanish Prisoner” to “The Phantom Menace,” the audience needs to make some leap of judgment. However, “Wild Wild West” abuses the rule over and over and over to such a degree that finding an event in the movie that is believable is like looking for intelligence in a Pauly Shore film.
This disbelief goes beyond just super-magnetical neck restraint, the turbo-powered bicycle, and the 100-foot high mechanical spider. (Lest you believe that “Wild Wild West” takes place in the future, Ulysses S. Grant is the movie’s U.S. president. And since you’re asking, mechanical spiders are generally considered to be invented post-Grant.) No, the disbelief starts with the relationship between the two major protagonists, James T. West (Will Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline). They are supposedly working together—while harboring a less-than-secret dislike of each other—on stopping the Conferderate-loving, double amputee villian Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) from taking over the United States with the financial help of France and Spain, among other nations. Independently, West and Gordon could be considered believable, I suppose, but together they have no chemistry at all. It often feels like either Smith or Kline is working in front of a blue screen with the image of the other projected on it. They are both in their own little acting world, and they see no reason to let the other actor in. Because of that, the most interesting character in the movie is the evil Loveless (ha ha! What a clever name), but even Branagh’s portrayal is often tired and uninteresting.
As should be evident by the appearance of a giant metal spider, “Wild Wild West” tries harder to be a comedy than a western. The humor in the film is primarily racial and sexual, occasionally blending the two together into something even more annoying; the zenith is an incident where West pounds on a woman’s breasts, then explains it away by saying it was a common greeting for his people back in Africa. Most of the rest of the humor is broad slapstick, but even those who enjoy that brand of humor will likely be disappointed by the small number of events that work succesfully.
The general tone of the humor in “Wild Wild West” will cause the most concern to Christians, especially because of the two instances of partial nudity that are used in that manner. There are occasional scenes of violence, mostly of the action cartoonish sort (except for one quite gruesome site at the very beginning). The language is cleaner than one expects in a PG-13 movie, which isn’t saying much. But overall, the movie is such a black hole of humor that why in the world would anyone want to see it anyway, Christian or not?